Little-known Stephen King short story to be expanded to feature film

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Sep 3, 2019, 7:48 AM EDT (Updated)

With It blasting a hole through the box office this weekend, it was only a matter of time before a slew of fresh Stephen King adaptations started getting put on the fast track.

Exhibit A is "Suffer the Little Children," a fairly obscure King short story that is being adapted by writer/director Sean Carter. The filmmaker just finished his first feature, a horror entry titled Keep Watching, which stars Bella Thorne (Scream: The TV Series), Natalie Martinez (Self/Less), Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four), and Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead). Screen Gems is set to release that one, although it does not yet have an arrival date. With Keep Watching behind him, here's what Carter has to say about his next project:

"The Stephen King aesthetic has been imprinted into my psyche since I was a teenager, and 'Suffer the Little Children' fits right into that classic King paradigm: a tragically flawed lead character put into a shockingly unimaginable scenario. It’s a tiny peek into a mythology that I can’t wait to expand into a full-length movie.”

Written in 1972, when the author was still unknown and struggling to pay the bills, "Suffer the Little Children" was first published in men's magazine Cavalier, and later included in King's 1993 story collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes (it was supposed to be in his first collection, 1978's Night Shift, but was nixed by King's editor at the time).

The tale follows a third-grade schoolteacher who begins noticing odd behavior among her students, with one of them telling her that the children in the class have all been replaced by doppelgangers. Is this really happening, or all a figment of the teacher's increasingly paranoiac mind? King leaves that ambiguous, but what is not left to the imagination is the climax ...  Open eyeClose eye Show Spoiler in which the teacher brings 12 of the students into a room and shoots them dead one by one.

The story is relatively brief, so it's not clear how Carter intends to expand it to feature length or just what he plans to do with that climactic scene, which, to be frank, I can't imagine playing too well with mainstream audiences. Strangely enough, "Suffer the Little Children" was adapted once before as a short film through King's "Dollar Baby" initiative, in which he allowed aspiring filmmakers to adapt one of his stories for $1. You can visit that film's website here.

One of the producers of Suffer the Little Children, Craig Flores, is also working on an adaptation of the King novel Rose Madder. With It doing unprecedented blockbuster business, you can expect to see a lot of producers and studios either snapping up the rights to other King works or dusting off the ones they've left to smolder in development hell. Whether any of them hit the heights that It has reached is another matter entirely ...

(via Deadline)